The Yard welcomed John back even more warmly than the surgery, which wasn't surprising. Lestrade was probably the most tactful: he simply gave John a strong handshake and told him they'd missed him. Everyone else made comments about my being insufferable and skirted about questions they so obviously wanted to ask. That latter aspect only become worse once they all finally realized the romantic developments of our relationship. But none of that really mattered much since we were both used to ignoring them all anyway.

Unlike everything else, once John started coming on cases again, he didn't progress slowly and surely. After the first case, he was almost as impatient as I was for the next. It was interesting, to say the least, to see John almost as excited as I was when Lestrade would phone with a triple homicide. He still would be the voice of sense as always, pointing out when I was inappropriately gleeful and such, but I could still see the sparkle in his eye.

Meanwhile, life at home started to become more intimate as well. John, actually, initiated the progression. And however much I did to hide our activities, everyone still seemed to know that our relationship was continuing to develop. At first, I was extremely annoyed by that. But then John flat out asked if that meant I was ashamed of being with him. It changed my perspective, I suppose. From that point on, I was publicly proud of having him at my side.

Not too long after that, I came to a decision I never thought I would make. I never even thought I would consider it. I made the necessary preparations almost immediately after doing the research to figure out what those preparations needed to be. Most importantly, I needed a ring. A simple gold band was what I ended up purchasing. I made dinner reservations and sent mine and John's best suits to the drycleaners.

I told Lestrade the day before that I was not to be disturbed that entire day. I had only told Mycroft my plan. John knew we were going to dinner but didn't know the significance. I suppose he probably knew something was up, especially that morning as he was getting ready for work.

"I'm picking up our suits today and I'll have that all ready for you," I told him as he brushed his teeth. "As soon as you get home tonight, we'll head over to the restaurant."

He chuckled as he spit into the sink and washed his mouth. "Sounds like a plan. I'll see you then." He gave me a kiss on the lips that lingered for a brief moment. I tried to push into something else, but John broke off with another chuckle.

"I have to get to work," he whispered, breath ghosting on my cheek. He kissed my lips briefly once more and then left.

I picked up the suits early and spent most of the day pacing the living room impatiently, barking at the clock for going too slow. I fiddled endlessly with the ring box and the ring inside of it. I put it on my own finger, staring at it contemplatively. It would have to be a short engagement I decided. A simple ceremony would be fine with me. It didn't need to be an elaborate ordeal. All I wanted was to be able to introduce John as my husband as soon as possible.

The time John was supposed to return home was nearing when my phone chimed. It was a text from him.

Emergency at the surgery. Have to stay a bit longer, hopefully won't be too long. You go ahead to the restaurant so we don't lose the reservation. I'll be there asap. Love. -JW

My insides clenched painfully as I quickly typed a message back to him. Are you all right? -SH

Luckily he didn't take long to respond. I'm fine. Promise I won't be more than a half hour. Go! I love you. -JW

I sighed heavily. This wasn't how things were supposed to go tonight. I love you too -SH, I typed back and went to get dressed.

At the restaurant, I waited. The waitress brought me a glass of water without my asking. My phone rang and I glared at the caller ID flashing Lestrade's name and number. I had very specifically told him several times not to disturb me today. I didn't care how bad I was needed, they could survive one night without me. If they couldn't, they were even more incompetent than I had always assumed.

Without realizing it, I finished off the water, and the waitress soon came scuttling over to refill it. My phone rang again, still Lestrade, several more times. I spent my time thinking of creative ways I could murder him and get away with it. Finally he seemed to give up on calling and texted. With a low growl, I read the text.

Pick up your damn phone. -GL

I hissed venomously at the text and snarled when it started ringing again. I viciously answered it.

"What?" I demanded. "I told you I was not to be disturbed-"

"Oh, thank heavens. You're alive."

I frowned, taken aback by the sound of utter relief in the Detective Inspector's voice. "What do you mean? Of course I'm alive. Why wouldn't I be?"

Lestrade ignored my question. "Where are you? Is Mrs. Hudson with you? What about John? I've been trying to reach him as well."

"Mrs. Hudson is at her sister's," I replied, annoyed. "I'm at dinner. John should be on his way to meet me. He was just stopping by the flat to change after work."

There was a silence over the line. Even over the phone, I could feel the tension, which only increased my annoyance.

"Lestrade, explain to me what the hell is going on."

"You're going to want to come home, Sherlock," Lestrade said finally, voice somber. "221 Baker Street has burned down."

I spent the car ride home alternatively yelling at the cabbie to drive faster and trying to call John's phone. It kept going straight to voicemail. The battery could've died, I kept telling myself. He could be still stuck at work or in a cab on the way home or to the restaurant. I didn't need to jumped to conclusions. It was dangerous to make assumptions.

I could tell the moment we turned onto Baker Street that the fire had been very controlled and very much not an accident. Someone had burned down our home on purpose. The question was whether or not they meant to scare us or harm us.

Lestrade came up to me as I climbed out of the cab. My eyes were fixed on the wreckage. There was no exaggeration in saying that 221 had been completely burned down. It was impressive, actually, as the cafe and the neighboring flat were almost perfectly fine save a few singes. And right in the middle was a smoking pile of black ash and wood. For a very brief moment, my mind played through all the critical data and experiments and momentos that were now lost. Photographs. Clothes. Trinkets. Sentimental things that I never thought I really cared about. But there was more at stake here and I knew it. I never liked paying any attention to the "feeling" of a crime scene, but I couldn't help but feel there was something far too dark in the air.

"There's a body," Lestrade said quietly when he reached my side. "Unidentified as of now, but..."

I didn't stay to hear the rest. I don't really remember walking over to where personell were kneeling over the charred and black body. I didn't pay the personell any attention; I can't even tell you who it was. I was too focused on the body.

I knelt down in the ash and debris. It was impossible to really tell who it was, though it was obviously male. They were probably already working on trying to match dental records, as that would be the only possible proof. Hair was blackened and missing completely in some areas. All skin was either a dark red or just black leather. Some clothes had melted into the skin so I couldn't tell where the skin ended and where the clothes started. My hand hovered over his face for a moment, wanting to caress it, feel the familiar soft skin... But it wouldn't be soft or familiar anymore. It was coarse. Rough. I grabbed a hand instead, forcing myself to feel past the burnt skin.

And I knew. This man was my life. Nothing mattered more in this existence than this man. I knew it was John.

Mycroft arrives just as Sherlock is getting back to his feet, a dazed and lost expression settled into his features. Lestrade greets him and fills him in, but Mycroft is focused more on his little brother. As soon as Lestrade is done talking, Mycroft goes up to Sherlock, wraps an arm around his shoulders, and leads him back to the car. Sherlock doesn't resist. Mycroft is pretty sure Sherlock isn't even aware Mycroft is there.

Mycroft sits in the back of the car with Sherlock on the way to Mycroft's mansion. Sherlock doesn't seem to realize it, but he soon pulls out a small black velvet box from his jacket pocket and starts fiddling with it. Mycroft watches curiously until the box is opened and the gold band is pulled out.

Ah. Yes. That was supposed to have been tonight, hadn't it?

Halfway to the house, Sherlock's phone chimes. Still obviously in shock, Sherlock pulls out his phone to read the text message and Mycroft manages to catch a glimpse.

I warned you. -JM

"I will burn the heart out of you..."

A/N: Hi. So. Yeah. I would've put warnings up for major character death, but that really would have ruined the whole affect of the story. You have no idea how hard it was to keep this quiet. Olivia knew, but that was it. Every time one of you would ask if Moriarty was going to kidnap John again or if John was going to go all BAMF on Moriarty, I had to keep my mouth shut. (There may or may not have been a lot of maniacal giggling... I'm evil, okay?) Basically... Don't kill me?

Again, thank you for reading this story. If the ending totally ruined it, I apologize. I hope it didn't. That's what it was leading to from even before I actually started writing.

Also, if you're about to ask me if Sherlock seeks revenge, the answer is: I don't know. That is not part of the story. This is the story, right here. The end. Perhaps he goes blood thirsty and does go on a killing spree. Perhaps Mycroft is able to knock some sense into him and Sherlock goes back to something similar to his life before meeting John. My inclination is to say, however, that Sherlock doesn't do either of these things but, rather, loses it. His sanity breaks and he's reduced to the state that John was in at the beginning of this story. Mycroft takes care of him for the rest of his life, but one careless slip when Mycroft isn't watching and Sherlock manages to accidentally kill himself.

That's my theory. You believe what you want to.